Telstra has shut down its 2G network and Optus and Vodafone are set to follow. Are you ready?

Telstra shut down its 2G network on 1 December 2016, and 2G will no longer exist in Australia after Optus decommissions its 2G network on 1st April 2017 and Vodafone flicks the switch on 30 September 2017. All devices still operating on these networks will be immediately disconnected, and Australian businesses are advised to migrate their devices to 3G or 4G well in advance of these dates.

2G has served us well. It was the second generation of mobile technology after Analog, and while it remains the dominant technology in terms of total connections – 2G is making way for the added speed and capacity of 3G and 4G.

Operators achieve greater efficiencies from switching off 2G networks and refarming the spectrum for 4G, and the number of commercially launched 4G LTE networks has hit 494 in 162 countries as a result.[1] Japan and South Korea have already migrated to higher-speed technologies that are less expensive to operate over time, and the rest of the world is set to follow.

The sunset of 2G networks will have the biggest impact on early Machine-to-Machine (M2M) / Industrial IoT adopters. Companies that entered the wireless M2M market some years ago will soon bear the unavoidable cost of replacing perfectly functional 2G devices in the field.

With operators fast investing in improved network coverage and capacity, the M2M applications that last the distance will be those that are compatible with 4G LTE. The long term viability of industrial and commercial M2M applications will generally increase in line with the number of years in operation. For the total cost of ownership to stay low, your M2M applications should operate for 10 to 15 years, or more.

As well as keeping your M2M applications connected over the long term, 4G LTE delivers the speed, power and performance needed to manage large amounts of data from digital displays, smart buildings, remote healthcare, emergency response, business back-up and other bandwidth-intensive M2M applications.

So whether you are thinking about rolling out a new M2M/IoT application for your business, or upgrading your existing 2G only devices, here are some of the key things you should look out for.

First, make sure you have a high level of support – both from the company you buy the M2M hardware from, and from the Mobile Network Operator that you choose to use. Pick M2M devices that are certified to operate in your country, and are officially approved by your preferred Network Operator. It also pays to give preference to devices from vendors with in-house engineering teams with a proven track record of designing devices that withstand harsh industrial environments.

There is a strong case to be made for paying a premium for 4G LTE devices that have failover connectivity to 3G, or even 2G, especially when M2M applications transmit business critical data from locations where the only connectivity option is cellular. A device with multiple cellular connectivity options (4G and 3G) will keep you connected even if the 4G LTE connection drops out, and lets you rollout a single device to all of your sites – even where 4G LTE has not yet been introduced by your preferred Network Operator. This is especially important when considering a device for reliable mobile connectivity to time critical systems, tele-health services and disaster recovery applications by offering automatic failover to 3G when outside of 4G coverage areas.

Above all, 4G powers M2M innovation.  You might not know what next big thing will be, but you can be ready and able to implement your idea by choosing products that support virtually any future M2M or Industrial IoT solution by offering ruggedized wireless connectivity and the freedom to add custom software applications to the devices. This allows solution providers, value added resellers and system integrators to build unique and powerful industrial IoT solutions that last.

What do you think it takes to design an M2M application that lasts?

[1]GSA. Evolution to LTE Report. 2016.